Changing Times



Early Days

Changing Times

Final Period

Before women could be recruited into The Ulster Defence Regiment there had to be a change to the 1969 UDR Act. The first women entered operational service the Regiment in August 1973 and were to be known as Greenfinches, this name was to stick with them until the merger in 1992.

Two Forms of GreenfinchGreenfinches were employed as telephone & radio operators and clerical duties to allow men soldiers to return to patrolling duties. As the terrorist started to enlist more females into their ranks the duties of the Greenfinch within the army also increased with them starting to go out on patrol with their male counterparts, although unarmed the Greenfinch would always be protected by a male soldier. Their new role consisted of them searching female suspects at check points, radio operators as well performing first aid to any injured person at the scene of violence.

1976 was to see the regiment increase in number and start a permanent cadre (full-time) wing. They were to be better trained than their part time counterparts and this would be their full time employment, allowing the army to use use as regular troops who went home into the community after their duty had ended. This also help with intelligence collection as these soldiers would be encouraged to remember things they thought of as out of place; strange cars travelling past their homes, loose talk in local pubs, that they could then pass on to intelligence officers set up within the battalion.

At this time The UDR were sent to Warcop Training Camp in Cumbria for extra training and while there search teams were formed and trained how to effectively find weapons and explosives.

After the murder of 10 mill workers by the IRA in Kingsmill near Newry 3UDR were mobilised to help reassure the local population. The Brigade Commander shortly after the Kingmills murders called out all UDR soldiers for full time patrols which carried on for 4 days, reports say that 9 out of 10 soldiers reported for duty and that must carried out 5 long patrols in any 24 hour period.

During the 1977 Silver Jubilee the Queen visited Northern Ireland with The UDR doing the guard of honour at Hillsborough Castle consisting of 3 officers and 98 men from each of the battalions formed the guard and were joined by 24 pipers & drummers.

As The Ulster Defence Regiment grew older and obtained the newer equipment of the regular army it also took on an ever increasing role within Northern Ireland, resulting in the regiment coming more on to the front line in respect of patrolling and assisting the police, at one time The UDR assisted the regular army or were used as guards by 1980 The UDR found that they were doing the majority of patrols and the there was a role reversal with regular army units be required to assist the regiment conduct operations. The UDR patrolled about 85% of Northern Ireland.

By 1980 the strength of the regiment would be about 7000 soldiers and comprised of 3 types of soldier. The part-time soldier who would be out on patrol after doing a normal civilian job and could be called out to do full-time duties if there were upsurges in violence, they formed the largest number of within the regiment. Full-time soldiers were making a career of being a soldier and carried out all the same types of patrolling that other regular units did with the exception of crowd control as their contract laid down only training being done outside the Province and finally members of the regular who were attached to The UDR in posts like UDR Commander who was a Brigadier and normally the Commanding Officers of battalions were also regular soldiers, certain key security vetting and intelligence jobs were carried out by these soldiers as well.

In the early 1980's The UDR started to suffer from a recruiting problem which appeared to be due to a number of factors including the number of regiment members being injured or murdered by terrorists and also the fact that members of the RUC could earn up to twice the wage of a soldier. Due to the fact that a RUC officer could by working overtime could obtain 3 times their basic wage and in turn allowed them to buy larger houses, new models of cars as well as taking their families on good holidays each year. A UDR soldier on the other hand was paid at the same rate as a regular soldier which meant he wasn't paid overtime no matter how many hours they worked extra.

In 1983 the RUC reorganized their working boundaries within Northern Ireland to adapt to the shifting crime patterns and with the aim to make the RUC more localised, 16 divisions became 12 and the army changed their working TAOR's to match the RUC. This would result in the first amalgamations of UDR battalions in it's history, in June 1984 1/9 UDR was formed giving the battalion some 700 square miles of area to patrol in Mid and South Antrim. In October of 1984 7/10 UDR was born, making it the largest battalion in the British army, this new battalion would the city of Belfast as well as Greater Belfast area.

During the 1980's the number of Catholics in the regiment continued to drop and at one point there was only 160 left in the whole regiment, very few were still living in solely Catholic areas due to the IRA carrying out attacks on them, also Catholic politicians were claiming The UDR were Loyalist paramilitaries in legal uniform. Yet when Loyalist paramilitaries tried to murder Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams in Belfast city centre it was an off duty UDR man who using his personal protection weapon arrested the gunmen holding them at gun point until uniformed soldiers arrived.

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